With the week of travel here, its time to pack. I have a pile ready to help make for a comfortable trip to the Arctic. Here are some of the things I’m packing for takeoff on Thursday.
Luckily, I am no stranger to cold weather. Despite this, I did some research on the best way to pack for November in the Arctic. Websites like Visit Greenland, Greenland Travel and Guide to Greenland helped a lot. Some items I had, others I purchased. Given my new stock of cold weather gear, I am now looking forward to winter in my own northern home!
1. Long underwear: These will be worn every. single. day. I am a person who runs cold naturally, I suspect the chill of the Arctic in November will be quite noticeable. The top recommendations for long underwear are those made from wool or silk. Both are expensive and both were hard to find (shipping/stocking delays at outdoor companies). So I am bringing two pairs of synthetic long underwear I already owned made from polyester and spandex (never cotton).
2. Wool, wool, more wool: Merino wool is the ideal material for baselayers, the clothes you wear under your other clothes in cold climates. Unlike fabric such as cotton, merino wool dries quickly and is incredibly warm. The merino wool also lacks the lovely scratchiness of typical wool. You will pay for these benefits however. I splurged on this merino wool top from Backcountry. I will probably wear it every day…till my kids go to college (I need to get my money’s worth). This wool hat and some wool hiking socks were also purchased for the trip.
3. Good boots: I cannot imagine a more important piece of clothing for froliking around the Arctic in November. I purchased these back in July, but any that are waterproof, well-built, and treaded are ideal.
4. Gloves AND glove liners: Layers are key, even on your hands. I went with LL Bean’s glove liners, I rarely regret a purchase from them (and it was one of the few desired items they had in stock). The outer gloves were a gift years ago, a well-loved pair that are fleece-lined.
5. Outdoor, water resistant or water repellent pants: I have a few already, but I also just found these. In addition to being great pants, the company (PrAna) puts a lot of resources into sustainability and socially-responsible business practices. I had trouble getting fleece lined jeans which I think would have been amazing. Many of the ones I found were back ordered. So I’ll have to depend on layers.
These next few are more universal items that make international travel to any place easier.
6. Travel underwear: Access to laundry facilities when traveling internationally is not a guarantee. So laundry happens in the bathtub...or the sink. One of the benefits of travel underwear is they dry fast (overnight). This is not the case with normal underwear. Partially damp underwear seems like a bad idea for November in the Arctic. A few pairs of travel underwear can go a long way if you wash every few days. I’ve always used ExOfficio, but I know there are other brands out there.
7. Other laundry accessories: A few other cheap purchases make sink/tub laundry more efficient. A drain plug, for one. Always a bummer when you go to soak something in the sink only to discover you can’t keep the water in. Travel laundry soap and a compact clothes line also help.
8. Backpacks: I'm ditching the wheelie suitcase, it’s impractical for many places. It took a surprising amount of time for me to figure this out. One big pack will be checked carrying all of my wool and travel underwear. The smaller one will be carry-on, with laptop, camera, and change of clothes (ALWAYS carry-on a change of clothes). Luckily, I already had both (thanks to my mother-in-law and brother)!
9. Reminders of home: See post about homesickness. I know I am going to miss my family, so I’ll be carrying pictures of them (actual printed ones..plus digital). A token from home related to the people, places or pets you will miss help in periods of homesickness. I have yet to bring a picture of my coffee maker, but anything is fair game.
Okay, so this is not everything I am packing. I also have a lot of fleece, a down winter jacket, plenty of toiletries, reusable ear plugs, an eye mask, high-quality face masks, copious amounts of anti-bacterial, various tech tools, copies of my vaccination card and passport, a dual-voltage hair dyer, extra cards/cash (kept in different places!), sunglasses, travel towel, a new notebook, power converters, and more. Getting all this into two backpacks will be a challenge. Wish me luck. Four days till takeoff.
I am an anthropology professor, writer, researcher and global traveler. This fall, I will be recording a research trip to Greenland as a virtual field trip for my students (and anyone else interested). Join us as we travel to the Arctic and learn about life in the far north.